The Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center is testing soldiers conducting prolonged marches carrying 88 pounds to measure how their bodies respond to prolonged load carriage.
Natick is utlizing a motion-capture system in its biomechanics lab with integrated force plate treadmills to capture both biomechanics and "physiologic measures" simultaneously. Put more simply, the Army wants to see how soldiers are able to endure long marches and then complete missions to include firing an M-4 at a moving target.
These advanced labs and the research done in them will help shape how the Army develops next generation for soldiers with the goal of lightening their loads and allowing their bodies to be more productive.
Researchers are utilizing advanced eye-tracking glasses that allow scientists to see how soldiers' eyes scan environments and detect pop up targets. It's not just a matter of how fast you pull the trigger, but how fast you find the target. This is different because next generation equipment might not include triggers.
Army officials at Natick are even using the same technology video game makers utilize to develop their games. Soldiers at the labs wear markers to build models with motion-capture software.
The labs also use electromyography, or EMG, to measure muscle activity. These sensors can detect the intensity and fatigue of muscles over time.
"In addition to the collection of biomechanical and physiologic data, we're administering cognitive tests that will allow us to evaluate both the biomechanical and cognitive changes that occur over time during a march," said said Dr. Leif Hasselquist, a Natick biomechanist. "This research is unique in that we are combining our traditional biomechanical tests with dynamic cognitive tests. This hasn't really been done before -- especially with soldiers."